Carolina at Tampa Bay Spread, Expert Pick & TV Info

Posted by Michael Hunt on Wednesday,December 28, 2016 8:38, EDT in

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do have a shot at making the playoffs with a victory over defending NFC champion Carolina on Sunday. But it would take about eight other results to go Tampa Bay’s way in Week 17 — including an unlikely tie. So don’t count on it. The Bucs are home favorites on NFL lines as the Panthers are playing out the string.

Carolina at Tampa Bay Spread, Expert Pick & TV Info

When: Sunday, Jan. 1, 1 PM ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
TV: Fox
RadioCarolina / Tampa Bay
Stream OptionNFL Live
Opening NFL Lines: Bucs -6 (46.5)

Why Bet on Carolina?

The Panthers (6-9) have been one of the NFL’s top disappointments after going 15-1 last regular season. They lost 33-16 at home to Atlanta in Week 16 to end a two-game winning streak. Cam Newton, last year’s league MVP, struggled with accuracy throughout the day, completing 18 of 43 passes for 198 yards with two interceptions. His only highlight came on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin in the back of the end zone on the final play of the third quarter. The other highlight was Greg Olsen, who with a 17-yard catch in the second quarter became the first tight end in NFL history to record three consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards receiving.

Newton struggled, particularly in the first half, when he had a passer rating of 3.7. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the fifth time in six games and finished with a season-low passer rating of 44.5.

Now, for the first time since 2012, the Panthers are out of the playoffs.

“Disappointed. Disappointed,” Newton said. “But yet, there’s hope for the future. We had a long run. A long, long run. It’s time for guys to have a sabbatical, so to speak, and get away from it. Rivera admitted Newton could have to start altering his playing style as he gets older. “He’s getting older and he’s going to be a different style player,: Rivera said. “We have to evolve.” Newton has missed only four games in six seasons — one due to a car accident — but has gradually begun to pick up more lingering issues. He’s been struggling through a shoulder ailment down the stretch of 2016.

This offseason, a key for the Panthers will be getting a deal done with free-agent defensive end Mario Addison. A bit of a late bloomer, the 29-year- old has 21 sacks in the last three seasons including 8.5 in just 13 games this year. With Charles Johnson playing on a one-year deal and perhaps on the way out, the Panthers need to keep Addison around if they can.

Why Bet on Tampa Bay?

The Bucs lost their chance to win the NFC South last week and really any playoff shot with a 31-24 loss at New Orleans. Jairus Bryd intercepted Jameis Winston twice. The first takeaway set up Mark Ingram’s second TD, and the second stalled a promising Bucs drive into Saints territory. Roberto Aguayo’s 35-yard field goal pulled Tampa Bay within a touchdown at the two-minute warning. An onside kick failed when Saints receiver Brandin Cooks recovered. Then New Orleans handed the ball to Ingram three times for a first down to run out the clock.

Winston was 23 of 35 for 277 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 27 TDs this season, tying a franchise single-season record. His touchdown passes went to tight end Cameron Brate and Mike Evans. Bucs running back Doug Martin was surprisingly scratched before the game. Team officials said it was a coach’s decision and not injury related.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Monday that he “stands by” his decision to feature Jacquizz Rodgers in Week 16 against the Saints. Koetter also remained noncommittal on the Week 17 status of Martin, who was benched for performance. Rodgers managed 78 yards and a touchdown on 17 touches. It sounds as if Martin will not play Week 17 and could be released this offseason.

The Bucs also placed Brate on injured reserve. It ended a surprisingly strong campaign for the third-year UDFA, one that made former second-rounder Austin Seferian-Jenkins expendable. The Harvard Man caught 57 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games.

So to make the playoffs, the Bucs must win this game. Then they’d need five teams to lose: the Packers, the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, amazingly, the Bucs are rooting against two AFC teams to win. Then on top of that five-game parlay, the Bucs need the unlikeliest of unlikelihood: a tie between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants.

The last tie game between the two teams was in 1997, and even with the new overtime rules there has been a grand total of six ties in the entire NFL since then.

Carolina at Tampa Bay Expert Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Over is 9-3 in the last 12 meetings in Tampa Bay.
Favorite is 13-5 ATS in their last 18 meetings.

Go Bucs and over on NFL odds.